Dimitra Fimi: A Scholar for our Time

Fair warning: In this post, I make a case that no one has asked me to make and which is full of bias because she was my PhD supervisor.

With Sunday’s announcement that Dr. Dimitra Fimi received the 2021 Tolkien Society Award for Outstanding Contribution, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a post about her.

I want to do a thought-experiment. I have nothing to do with deciding who gets the awards, but I want to set up a scenario in which I would make the case for Fimi to receive the award: What accolades would I highlight, and what would I include in building the case?

I think the first step is to acknowledge that she has edited Tolkien’s own work. She and Andrew Higgins co-edited Tolkien’s A Secret Vice, which they greatly expanded with vital context (including situating the work more thoroughly in Tolkien’s modern context and determining where the speech was originally given). This puts Fimi in a class of scholars that is already pretty exclusive, among others who have edited Tolkien like Verlyn Flieger, Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond, and Christopher Tolkien (who have all won the Outstanding Contribution Award in the past).

Next, I think it is important to consider Fimi’s own original scholarship. While I could write a lot here about her various articles and chapters, for brevity’s sake I will focus on one of her monographs. Her book Tolkien, Race and Cultural History is groundbreaking and revolutionary. It examines aspects of Tolkien’s work that had not been dealt with in this depth before and it has (and should continue to) change the way scholars write about Tolkien. I am not alone in considering it an essential piece of Tolkien criticism. The book won the 2010 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies.

Apart from her own scholarship, which I have already established as of the highest quality, Fimi has also been very active in academia as an organizer, mentor, and supervisor. She currently serves as the co-directory of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow, where she oversees programming about all aspects of fantasy literature. This includes hosting an annual conference on Fantasy, supervising PhD and MA candidates, and teaching courses about Tolkien, fantasy, and children’s literature regularly. This means that Fimi has had a personal influence on those entering the field of Tolkien scholarship that is almost as significant as that of her scholarship.

Finally, I think it is worth noting that Fimi is one of the most collegial and responsive scholars in the field today. She is constantly advising and giving feedback on projects by other scholars to help them improve their work. She sits on the editorial review boards of The Journal of Tolkien Research, Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society, and the Literary Encyclopedia, as well as the advisory board for Walking Tree Publishers.

In sum, Fimi is the type of scholar that other scholars would do well to emulate. She has already had a profound impact on the field of Tolkien Studies, and I am sure that we will continue to see brilliant scholarship and leadership from her in the future.

This is very far from a complete catalogue of the multitude of publications, appearances, and lectures that Fimi has presented. It is not intended to be exhaustive; instead, the hope was to put together a succinct case for the award, and I hope I have done the thought experiment justice, I know this does not do justice to Fimi’s career.

In my view, there isn’t anyone more deserving of this award.

My earnest congratulations to her on a well-deserved recognition!

If you want to know more about how Fimi first encountered Tolkien’s work, she was our first guest on the Tolkien Experience Podcast!

You can see all of the winners for the 2021 Tolkien Society Awards on the Tolkien Society website.

On a personal note, I am still dumbfounded that Dimitra agreed to be my PhD supervisor, and it was a privilege to work with her. I know that this post has far too much bias to be credible, but the facts are there for everyone to examine.

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